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Rogue Book Exchange may turn a final page

The final chapter could soon be written for an effort to get books into the hands of local book lovers and community members in need.

With the decade-old Rogue Book Exchange lacking a retail location since last year, director Bill Boehning is ready to pass the torch or blow it out.

A combination of increased rents for commercial properties in the region and a lack of volunteers to keep things afloat has pushed the nonprofit into a Phoenix storage unit for the past year.

After repeated failures at trying to find a brick-and-mortar location, remaining volunteers have begun to tie up loose ends and pay off remaining debt in anticipation of closing.

Founded in 2007, Rogue Book Exchange was the brainchild of Jackson County resident Jenny Hamilton, who launched the concept of the book exchange as county libraries were making national news headlines for being closed for lack of funding.

At the time, Hamilton’s children were small. As her children grew older and the project expanded, Hamilton stepped down in 2012 as the original Bullock Road location was traded for a downtown location on Ivy Street.

Boehning said his own business and personal commitments have forced his decision, but he’s hopeful someone will come forward to keep things going — as the current group of volunteers did a handful of years ago.

The ideal situation, he said, would be to partner with another nonprofit that could offer free or reduced rent in order to keep the service afloat.

“It’s served the community for over a decade,” Boehning said. “When we took over in 2012, we had no debt, a little money in the bank and more volunteers than we have now. I don’t want to see it go away, but I can’t run it anymore. I’m hoping to give the community an opportunity, if anybody is interested, to continue this wonderful idea.

“If nobody shows an interest or steps up, so to speak, I’ve started the wheels turning to go ahead and shut it down. I can’t close up shop until I’ve paid everybody off, so that allows for time for someone to come forward. I’d give it until the end of May, possibly end of June before it’s too late.”

Hamilton sympathized with the hurdles Boehning currently faces but said she’s hopeful for an 11th-hour revival.

“As a book lover, I was very much aware that there was a gap that needed to be filled and I couldn’t quite believe what was happening with our libraries. It kind of took on a life of its own and I’m glad it’s lasted for as long as it has,” she said.

“I think there is still a need and I think a lot of people would really love to see the community help find a way for it to continue and to flourish.”

Under state law, a minimum of three volunteer board members would be required to make decisions and volunteers would be needed to collect and sort books and work, eventually, in a storefront.

Donated property, shared space or reduced rental costs also would be key in maintaining the established model of providing free books in a storefront environment. To cover costs, the book exchange has established an Amazon sales front through which rare or valuable titles are sold to cover operational costs for the organization.

Boehning, who plans a community meeting in coming weeks, said acquisition of the exchange includes a 2,000-book inventory, a Facebook page and a brand identity.

The only remaining bill after other debts are paid would be for storage of the existing inventory until a storefront can be re-established.

“Basically, we have 2,000 books, with at least a $30,000 list price, according to how they’re priced on Amazon. If there was someone who was a bibliophile, it’d be a really fun project for them,” Boehning said.

“The Rogue Book Exchange already has a presence in the community and it’s something people have really loved having available. We just need someone with new ideas and energy to step in and keep it going.”

For details or to contact Boehning, visit www.roguebooks.org or www.facebook.com/RogueBookExchange or call 541-690-9492.

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Bill Boehning stands in a storage unit in Phoenix where all the Rogue Book Exchange books are currently being stored.